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Man Bites Relationship

Three months ago, my boyfriend rescued a 2-year-old, 85-pound, neutered dog from a shelter. I have a little 35-pound dog I love dearly. She’s been with me seven years. We wanted to introduce them because we want to build a life together. It didn’t go well. His dog attacked mine both times. I said this should be a no-brainer: If he can’t turn his dog around through training soon, he should get rid of it. He eventually agreed to work with his dog, but over the last month has just gotten more attached to it, and has been reading books that tell him his dog’s “doing nothing wrong.” He finally said I’d have to risk my dog with his one more time, “just to find out.” I can’t do that. Is a brand new dog all it takes for a year-long relationship to get derailed!?

--House Broken

If your boyfriend’s like some dog people, he may see what’s essentially an order to docilize doggie or else as something akin to you saying, “So, whenever I’m at your house, your son fights with my daughter…and she’s 7 years old, and you’ve only had him for two…” And the story ends with his kid on the Social Services doorstep with a note: “Sorry, my dad’s witchy girlfriend said I had to go. Hope you find me a nice couple.”

Looking at this from your angle, here’s a man you must find sweet and loving (or why would you be with him?) and he basically suggests, “Let’s just see if my dog eats your dog.” Didn’t Michael Vick go to jail for that sort of thing? And sure, there is that chance the doggies will sit down and have a little tea party and maybe even share a strand of spaghetti like in “Lady and the Tramp.” But, according to dog trainer Brenda Aloff, “If the little female has already been scared by this bigger dog, the prognosis is real poor.” Plus, Aloff, author of Aggression in Dogs, cautioned that introducing these dogs “is not a two-week process. It’s going to take you months; a six-to-12-month process” with “serious and close supervision” and “mutual cooperation” of both owners. Even then, there’s no guarantee you won’t one day leave your dog with his dog and come home to a collar and a pile of fur.

What kind of guy suggests you just let him sic Cujo on Tinkerbell “one more time”? Well, maybe your little dog has saved you from making a big mistake. Then again, maybe it was a mistake you made that turned this into a standoff. Telling a guy what to do, even when you’re right -- and you are right -- is the worst way to get a guy to do anything. You emasculate him, and knee him in the ego, and your grown man comes out fighting like a little boy: “You’re not taking my puppy!” At that point, his dog could swallow your auntie whole, and he’d blame her for wearing an aggression-provoking housedress.

Assuming the guy wants to be with you and isn’t a jerk or an idiot, he probably knows his dog has to go. Try again, but instead of rubbing his nose in the solution, merely present the problem. Ask, “How do WE work this out?” Don’t announce, “Hup-two, here’s what you have to do!” I’m guessing he’ll find it easier to admit there’s more to this than “Gee, let’s mix my plaid recliner and your flowered couch and see how it goes.” (In cases of dueling patterns, the loser gets dropped off at Goodwill, not the pet cemetery.)

Posted by aalkon at February 6, 2008 12:18 AM


I don't agree .
The 'little female " is " scarred " by the big mean male bruiser ( your female reference is apparently a canine feminist )-- so the gals get together and tell the boys what to do ?
Has she considered getting rid of her dog if the two are incompatible ? Is it more important to her to keep her dog than the relationship ? Yes.. Why can he not take the same position ?
The case could as easily be made that adopting his dog aided this man in discovering some ugly personality characteristics of his girlfriend-- controlling, demanding, and giving ultimatums unless she is appeased.

Really-- people just love their dogs and asking someone to part with their dog for you-- will get you rejected everytime.

My girl Samoyed Etah was the most joy I ever had. So-- , guy,keep the dog and kick the woman to the curb. Your dog will love you unconditionally and will not ask you " Is there another taco ?" or leave you for another "owner".

Having a lot of experience with dogs, it would help to know the breeds here. Also-- dogs are the opposite of humans-- a male and a female tend to get along, whereas with two females or two males you can sometimes have trouble. " Attack" ?....

Posted by: etahasgard1986@aol.com [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 12:38 AM

The guy is bringing the dog into an existing relationship in which there's an existing dog. If he wants the dog more than the girl, he can ditch the girl. I think it's just a case of a woman approaching this wrong.

FYI, If you're going to accuse somebody of being a feminist, you've got the wrong girl. Also, it's just as unattractive when men whine about how people are out to get them as it is when women do.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 6, 2008 12:52 AM

Probably the most important bit of info here is that his dog is an adult dog from a shelter. The dog is almost guaranteed to have serious discipline problems, trouble bonding to its new owner, etc. There's some reason that dog landed in the shelter, and usually a bad one.

I'm all for helping out homeless animals, but no one should take an adult dog from a shelter unless they (a) have serious experience training dogs and (b) are prepared to invest a lot of time working with the dog.

Here is sound more like a spontaneous idea "I think I'll get a dog", with no real intent to train it, and no idea what kinds of problems shelter dogs bring with them.

Posted by: bradley13 at February 6, 2008 1:37 AM

This one is difficult to comment on because we can't see what is going on between the animals. Sometimes it looks like dogs are fighting to the death when all that's going on is a lot of noise and posturing. On the other hand, if a big dog picks up a little dog and shakes it, it's a whole different story, and the little dog will probably be terrified of big dogs from then on.

Rescue dogs are liable to have baggage; but most dog behaviour problems are due to their owners, who unwittingly train the problem behaviour into the dogs. My experience is that just about any dog owner would benefit from going to dog training class - not just reading a book, though that's better than nothing. There's a whole lot of animal psychology and learning theory now available. Yet people still try to relate to their pooches as if they were human.

As for the LW's question, "Is a brand new dog all it takes for a year-long relationship to get derailed!?" - I think that's rhetorical. The answer is clearly yes. So why is she writing for advice?

Posted by: Norman [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 2:48 AM

Not to mention, ethasguard, that she had her dog for seven years and he three months. If she'd choose a man of one year over a doggie of seven, she shouldn't be a pet owner.

However, that said, one has to wonder if he isn't the cowardly type that can't stand the pain of breaking up taking a passive aggressive tactic getting the shelter dog in the first place and then acting like he can't live without this doggie he's invested three months in that, from what we know, isn't exactly the warm puppy kind of dog. After all, he knew his girl had the dog for a long time and he knew what kind of dog she had and how aggressive or not the little doggie was. Seems odd that he went to a shelter and got a large dog that was bound to be trouble for her dog if he really wanted "to build a life" together.

Me thinks that perhaps she was mistaken about how into her he was. Screw the dog, kick the "man" to the curb. (Before you start, I put man in quotes because he doesn't even have the balls to break up or admit he doesn't want to become any more serious, whichever's the case.)

Posted by: Donna at February 6, 2008 5:40 AM

Good call, Donna. He knew the job was dangerous when he took it; if he's going to use the incompatible dog as an excuse, she's better off. It's too bad about the time she already invested, though. o_O

Posted by: Flynne [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 5:59 AM

I think that many people have no idea of what they can be in for when they adopt a dog from a shelter. The man in question probably still thinks he can do something about it because he's had the dog only 3 months, and he may well feel like he too is abandoning it if he takes it back to the shelter. I also think the shelter should have been forthcoming about any behaviour problems.

I agree that a month or so is not nearly enough time to retrain aggressive behaviour.After 2 unfortunate experiences in which my dog (then 6 months old) was bitten by neighbor's dogs, I am training him for a year now and still must be vigilant so we don't have trouble at the park.80% better than a year ago, but not home free yet. 'Once bitten, twice shy', to misuse a phrase. He adopted a 'get them before they get me' stance that I am still correcting. He can now play with 8 out of 12 neighboring dogs. We're getting there. A month or two,if this dog is really aggressive, is not nearly enough.

The suggestion to bring the dogs together once again may be (again, just my experience with my slightly difficult dog) that the dog may be a total marshmallow with people, and so the guy thinks the dog is 'okay'. Some dogs are fabulous with people but can't stand other male dogs etc.

I would suggest that his dog be evaluated by a professional dog trainer, and that any meeting of the two dogs take place after training, and with the trainer present to diffuse any aggression.

Posted by: crella at February 6, 2008 6:18 AM

While the point that this may be a passive aggressive act has merit I can see a fairly reasonable other side. First the male dog may have been neutered too late and he wasn't trying to fight the other dog. Watching two dogs bread it's hard to know what's going on until the consummate. The larger male dog may have been trying to establish dominance and either the small dog didn't back down or the owner freaked out aggravating the situation and setting off both dogs. The large dog may have thought he was playing. Given these and other alternatives this does not change the fact that due to the size difference the big guy has to be trained very carefully so as to not hurt or kill the smaller dog even while playing. The trainer would be the best idea if they both want to keep the dogs and each other. However it will never be a good idea even with intense training to leave the two dogs unsupervised.

I'd also like to point out that we do not have enough information about how the animals were introduced. If the little dog ran up to the big guy he may have though she was attacking him and reacted with some force. If the big male dog wanted to kill the smaller dog he would have done it almost instantly.

Posted by: vlad [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 7:07 AM

"Ask, “How do WE work this out?” "

Amy, have I told you lately that I love you? You are a voice of reason in a wilderness of "idiocity."

Any couple can expect life to throw them curve balls that make an ornery large breed dog seem like a whiffle ball. Think disabled child; think dementia addled parent or infidelity or addiction.

If these kids can't work this out, time to move on.

Posted by: martin [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 7:13 AM

"If he can’t turn his dog around through training soon, he should get rid of it." "He finally said I’d have to risk my dog with his one more time, “just to find out.” I can’t do that." Wait even if he used a professionals trainer which would be his best chance is there a different way to check compatibility between the two dogs. She told him to work with the dog and reduce his aggression towards HER dog, he did as per her own statement. He can use other methods to show that his dog isn't aggressive towards other 35-lb same(as her dog) breed.

If she doesn't trust him about working with the dog then the relationship is doomed and it has nothing to do with the dogs. Also his response that his dog did nothing wrong says either she over reacted and his dog wasn't trying to kill her dog, or this is actually a passive aggressive break up attempt.

If they actually want this to work I'd say take a few tries on a leash outside of the house. Try introducing the big guy to other small dogs on leashes and see how that goes first to keep her calm. Maybe even go to a vet and have them try to integrate the dogs, if she's tense around both dogs they will smell it and up the chances of aggression.

Posted by: vlad [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 7:19 AM

A lot depends on the breed, too. My dog came from a shelter that rescues puppy mill dogs. She spent the first four years of her life in some Missouri puppy mill cranking out puppies one litter after another. She always lived in a cage and had no socialization, and had no idea what toys or treats were. Most of the dogs that come out of puppy mills are afraid of people at first - they haven't necessarily been hit or abused, but since they've never been touched they are afraid of it.

The thing is, my little gal was a sweetheart right from the beginning. She figured out what toys and treats were very quickly (especially the treats, ha ha), learned how to navigate street curbs on a leash, potty trained almost instantly, and even stopped cringing and cowering on the floor every time I'd lift something like a frying pan up above my head to put it away in a cupboard. She has never shown even the tiniest bit of aggression toward any person or dog and has turned into a total lover.

But she's a pug! They're pretty much ALL like that, because that's what the breed was made for. If you can start a pug out with four years of no training or socialization whatsoever and they still turn into a wonderful pet within a matter of days, that says something about how important a factor breed is. I wonder what kind of dog this guy got? Seems he could have been a bit smarter when he picked one.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at February 6, 2008 7:52 AM

LW is a dog lover. Boyfriend is clearly trying to be and I think still trying to merge their lives, even though his idea of trying is letting poor tinkerbell get gobbled up to a dust bunny.

She said that he is reading books that say his dog is "doing nothing wrong". Which it probably isn't (neither lw or bf sound particularly bright, they probably brought little dog to big dogs territory, or vice versa, instead of neutral ground). Perhaps instead of dumping all the responsibility on BF, she should be doing some reading herself on how to integrate dogs. Or maybe her dog is timid around all dogs. Just sending "Cujo" to training may not solve their problems. Both dogs and owners should go together. (if that doesn't work, I agree that "cujo" needs to go).

On a personal note, my hubby feeds, waters and walks our tiny little dog everyday, and holds her like a baby (as gay as he looks). I had/have to housebreak her, read the training books, schedule vet appointments, and remember her meds every month. He ADORES that dog, but if he were left to his own devices, she would be pissing everywhere and have heartworms. He is just not organized, and he isn't a disciplinarian.

Maybe "let's try again" is BF's way of indirectly asking for LW's help. Or maybe he secretly hates her yappy little dog and was hoping Cujo would rip it to shreds. ;)

Posted by: dena at February 6, 2008 8:01 AM

LW is a dog lover. Boyfriend is clearly trying to be and I think still trying to merge their lives, even though his idea of trying is letting poor tinkerbell get gobbled up to a dust bunny.

She said that he is reading books that say his dog is "doing nothing wrong". Which it probably isn't (neither lw or bf sound particularly bright, they probably brought little dog to big dogs territory, or vice versa, instead of neutral ground). Perhaps instead of dumping all the responsibility on BF, she should be doing some reading herself on how to integrate dogs. Or maybe her dog is timid around all dogs. Just sending "Cujo" to training may not solve their problems. Both dogs and owners should go together. (if that doesn't work, I agree that "cujo" needs to go).

On a personal note, my hubby feeds, waters and walks our tiny little dog everyday, and holds her like a baby (as gay as he looks). I had/have to housebreak her, read the training books, schedule vet appointments, and remember her meds every month. He ADORES that dog, but if he were left to his own devices, she would be pissing everywhere and have heartworms. He is just not organized, and he isn't a disciplinarian.

Maybe "let's try again" is BF's way of indirectly asking for LW's help. Or maybe he secretly hates her yappy little dog and was hoping Cujo would rip it to shreds. ;)

Posted by: dena at February 6, 2008 8:01 AM

"A lot depends on the breed, too." Absolutely, the shelters around me very rarely if ever have pure breads. I'm guessing it's mut so it may have genes from a more aggressive bread hiding in say a sharpei or setter exterior. He should have; knowing that she has a small dog asked about his dogs history with other dogs. If the shelter gets cagy ask to see him interact with other dogs. If they refuse leave, it's not worth the risk. All the shelters I have been where honest about the dogs behavior.

If this is a pure breed of guard/working dog breeds he's either colossally stupid/ignorant or he's a cruel asshole. Dump her, pee in her coffee, nail her sister if you want the passive aggressive end to the relationship. Don't try to feed her little toy dog to a mistreated guard dog, it's cruel to both dogs and the girl.

This does not change Amy's advice of "How do we work it out" as being spot on.

Posted by: vlad [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 8:09 AM

"There's some reason that dog landed in the shelter, and usually a bad one."

Bradley implies that all shelter dogs are there because of behavior problems. This is simply not the case. I volunteer with my local humane society, and 99% of our dogs are there because of irresponsible owners. The owners did not fix their animals so now they have a litter of puppies they need to get rid of, they were cruel to their animals and we had to take them, they're having a baby/getting married/moving and can't keep the dog.

I do agree with his statement that you need to be prepared to invest time when you adopt a shelter dog. I have 2 and they are the best dogs ever. The positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

Posted by: Amy at February 6, 2008 8:14 AM

Without evidence, here's my spin:

BF so admire's GF's love of her dog that he decides to extend the family and share the experience with her. A+ for enthusiasm, D for foresight. Notwithstanding any latent flaws in their relationship, if they tumble to the solution of "recycling" Cujo the issue remains that he is invested in the dog's welfare. Since he already owns the dog, he can find a good new home for it directly. Years ago we did this very thing when our 2nd cat freaked out the 1st (both females). I loved #2 more and cried when I took her back to the shelter. But, as shelter volunteers, DW and I were able to hand-pick her new Mom and she went on to a great life.

If deep down he's thinking "What if I give up Fido then GF and I break up? Do I get to kidnap him from his new owners? Should I leave a trail of gravy from their house to mine so he can run back to me?" then all the previous posts apply. Best case, GF loves him for his selfless sacrifice.

Whatever happens, you KNOW your dog loves you unconditionally (or expertly acts as if it does due to millenia of selective breeding for anthropomorphological traits).

Posted by: DaveG [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 8:22 AM

If they do decide to let the two dogs get together again, how about putting a muzzle on the big one, just to be on the safe side? At least then he won't be able to eat the little one, if he wants to, and then they can witness the aggression without any deaths occuring!

Posted by: Chrissy [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 8:47 AM

The fact that they should work this out and not just wait and see regardless of the outcome (stay together or break up) isn't really up for debate. The questions look to be why did he get the dog, and what kind of dogs are the two involved.

Amy: Any chance of finding out what breeds the two dogs are?

Posted by: vlad [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 9:12 AM

It doesn't always have to be "it's me or the dog". I think "trying it out" and attempting to get the two dogs integrated again is actually a good solution. The main thing is HOW they do it. One way to get the dogs together without having them maul each other is to put up a baby gate, and put one dog on one side and one on the other. Let them sniff each other out from either side of the gate until they settle down. Then cautiously let them get to each other, and see what happens. Don't freak out if there's growling.

Also, just because an animal is smaller than another doesn't mean it's helpless or going to get eaten by the bigger one. I have an 18 pound cat and we brought home a 2 lb kitten, and the third day he was here, the kitten kicked the older cat's butt.

However, unless you can find a very good home for the animal, if it ever comes down to "It's me or that dog!" pick the dog. A human cries for a little while, picks up the pieces, and moves on. An animal, more likely than not, will be stuffed in a tiny, dirty cage for weeks to await a hopeful adoption, probably won't have someone adopt them, and will be euthanized. Animals are helpless - humans aren't.

Posted by: Bad Kitty at February 6, 2008 9:37 AM

I referred to your source for canine behavior as a "canine feminist"- the scenario was right out of feminist mythology, with "the little female" being "scarred" by the big male ... stalker... no doubt. She is actually imposing a political ideology on dogs ! Hilarious.

" Its just as unattractive when men whine about people who are out to get them... " What are you talking about ?
1. What "whining" ( a conclusory, usually sexist put-down of men )-- I merely have a different take on the situation.

2."people out to get them "-- who is out to get me in this story about how to negotiate a relationship with incompatible dogs ?

The woman has chosen to issue an ultimatum-- she wants to spend her life with this man-- yet tells him to lose the dog or else ? A very bad sign...

Posted by: etahasgard1986@aol.com at February 6, 2008 9:57 AM

Brenda Aloff a "canine feminist"? That's such crap I'm tempted to try to pick it up in a dogpoop bag. She called her a "little female" as a way of differentiating between the dogs. Is use of the word "little" also indicative of some matriarchal leaning on her part?

My favorite insult applies in this case: Your proctologist called. They found your head.

As for Aloff, after interviewing her for almost an hour, I find her to be a man-loving midwestern broad like me.

"Canine feminist"? I mean, jeez, sometimes the men's movement dudes are more ridiculous than the feminists.

If he were the one with the dog he'd had for seven years my advice (and Aloff's, I think I can safely say) would have been the same. Aren't there enough issues out there without you making shit up?

Book recommendation for you: A Guide to Rational Living.

Buy three -- one for the home, one for the car, one for the office.

Posted by: Amy Alkon [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 10:05 AM

Oh, and next time read my advice before you launch off into the "women are all against us" stratosphere.

I told her you don't give a guy an ultimatum or tell him what to do.

If you're looking for somebody who's against men, look elsewhere, kitten.

Posted by: Amy Alkon [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 10:07 AM

" "the little female" being "scarred" by the big male ... stalker... no doubt. She is actually imposing a political ideology on dogs ! Hilarious." Um if you are going to make an attack at least quote correctly. She never said that the larger dog was male. You made the larger dog male. Female dogs ARE smaller then male dogs of almost every breed of dog. If this quote is from an interview Amy had with the trainer then could it possible be that the comment was about (or in reference to) Amy's small dog which is female.

Posted by: vlad [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 10:20 AM

Bradley's statement about shelter dogs being problmatic is ridiculous. I have worked with shelter dogs off and on for 20 years-- AMY is correct. They are there becausee of irresponsible humans. I adopted several such dogs and many strays and never had any behavior problems.
It is gravely irresponsible to deter people from adopting "shelter dogs" based on ignorant coomnets like this.... Many are pure-breeds... and mixed breeds are almost always healthier and less neurotic.
And a 35 lb dog is not "little"-- that s Sheltie size. This aint a Pomerianan or a Chihuahua.And 85 lbs aint that big-- a nice-sized Labrador.

" Training"-- I have found to be largely useless, beyond getting a few tips. Read some books and associate with a lot of dogs-- they communicate their intent and emotions pretty clearly.

Its another occassion for male-hating and bashing for Flynne and Donna-- who invent the most paranoid scenario imaginable. For them, apparently, an evil man is acting out his evil nature all the time. Their comments exemplify hating men. Its beyond neurotic ,approaching delusional. They are both ripe for mental health intervention-- woops, their female 'therapist' will just agree with them that there is an evil male everything...
and our host lectures me about whining about people out to get me-- when the Bobbsey twins concoct a paranoid scenario of female victimization and male perfidy-- out of a dog problem !

Posted by: etahasgard1986@aol.com at February 6, 2008 10:22 AM

Vlad-- I quoted the female trainer-- and you accuse me of attacking without sourcing ?
She said the dog was neutered-- hence, it is male. A female dog is "spayed". I did not make the dog male.
35 pounds is not a "little dog". 85 lbs is a good-sized dog, but they get much larger-- some up to 210.

This is mindboggling.
Irrelevant personal attacks revealing unstated personal issues,
bizarre, paranoid anti-male scenarios of passive -aggressiveness that merit clinical intervention, and
patently ridiculous accusations by people who don't know the difference between neutering and spaying.

About a dog problem !

Posted by: etahasgard1986@aol.com at February 6, 2008 10:38 AM

"who invent the most paranoid scenario imaginable" Never dealt with a male borderline have you? Now this disorder is far more commonly diagnosed in females males tend to be labeled antisocial but it's the same disorder. I'm not saying he did it out of spite or cause he's an evil bastard, but since it's strange for him to reply with "hid dog doing nothing wrong" after trying to "kill" her dog. There are multiple possibilities one of them is that he is a male borderline or a nut. She may be a nut and over reacting. They may both be playing a few cards shy of a full deck.

Before you rant on the anti-male paranoid delusions pause and think about this, we all judge situations based on past experiences. You (just an assumption) have not dated men and seen the really weird shit we are capable of. You have (again my assumption) dated women and given your reaction at least a few crazy ones. So your assuming that Flynne and Donna are man haters like the crazy ones you have dated or interacted with. They are like wise judging this man (not all men) based on their past experiences.

Just once watch what a male or female borderline can do to a friend of yours and the tricks they pull you won't trust anyone ever, without some corroborating evidence.

Posted by: vlad [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 10:45 AM

The LW said the dog was neutered not the trainer. Now if Amy asked the Trainer specifically about this dog then ok fine your right your not making the dog male.

What does the fact that a Mastiff can go as high as 210 (I have known even bigger) have to do with the fact that in this scenario the larger dog out weights the smaller dog more than 2 to 1. That's like arguing the a 110 lb fighter should be able to take a 220 lb fighter just because there a fat humans who top the scale at 600lb.

Posted by: vlad [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 10:51 AM

You are also assuming that the LW knows the neutered always applied to males animals. I have seen vet documents that list both dogs and cats a NF.
While this web site if by a female author it makes the point.

Spayed and castrated are the gender specific terms for neutering.

Posted by: vlad [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 10:56 AM

etahasgard1986, I don't bash men, and never have, so quit with the casting of aspersions on me. You don't know me, you have no idea what I'm like or what I've been through in life, so back off. You are reading far more into the whole situation than what Donna and I intended. Lighten up.

Posted by: Flynne [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 11:32 AM

etahasgard1986 writes: "Bradley's statement about shelter dogs being problmatic is ridiculous. I have worked with shelter dogs off and on for 20 years-- AMY is correct. They are there becausee of irresponsible humans."

But I don't disagree at all! Nor do I disagree with what Amy said. I think we actually agree: an adult dog (not a puppy) is likely to be in a shelter because it was raised by irresponsible, cruel, or perhaps just clueless owners.

The result is likely to be a dog with training and behavioral problems, and these may well be beyond the ability of the average dog owner to deal with. It's not the dog's fault, but the problems are there nonetheless.

The impression the letter gives is that this guy isn't any sort of experienced dog owner. He most likely has little or no experience training dogs - and has zero clue how to deal with whatever psychological baggage his four-legged friend came equipped with.

Posted by: bradley13 at February 6, 2008 11:48 AM

There are lots of subtle things that humans don't think about that can cause two dogs to be hotile to one another.

Firstly, Are their dogs on leash when they meet? My dog is INCREDIBLY leash reactive. He does attack, especially smaller dogs when on leash. When he is not on leash he gets long with them just fine and goes regularly to daycare. This is a VERY common problem, esp. in shelter dogs.

Secondly, where are they introducing the dogs? Are they bringing the small dog to the big dog's home? Big dog to the small dog's home? Ideally they should meet at a neutral site. I would recommend they look up some of the literature available online about introducing new dogs to each other there are lots of techniques available to help.

Thirdly, the behavior of the humans can have a huge affect on the behavior of the dogs. If the owner of the smaller dog is fearful of the bigger dog then the small dog may sense this and act overly fearful as well, which may encourage the big dog to bully her.

Without actually seeing what is happening it is really hard to say "The big dog should go to a shelter where it will be stressed and possibly never find a new home because it is mean." The boyfriend may be right, the big dog may actually be reacting to hostile behaviors the small dog is exhibiting. They need to work together to help this dog learn to get along. Ultimatums, IMHO are hardly the solution.

I think the best call for this couple would be to call a professional animal behaviorist. Vets usually can recommend one. This behaviorist could observe the two dogs in proximity to each other or other dogs and see what the problem is. They also may be able to come up with training methods that could help deal with issues that arise for both dogs. (The suggestion of introducing them through a baby gate or through a fence is also an excellent idea.)

Posted by: Shinobi [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 12:19 PM

Amy -

Kind of surprised you didn't examine the idea of having LW and boyfriend "build a life together" in separate residences.

Problem solved.

Or not. By "acquiring" a big dog on his own, boyfriend is showing LW he is in no hurry to move in/get married/merge. Which is fine if LW is Amy Alkon, but likely a deal-breaker-accelerator to the vast majority of women out there.

Posted by: snakeman99 [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 1:22 PM

ethasgard - If I ever meet you IRL, remind me to kick you in the nuts. You see an anti-man conspiracy everywhere you look.

Sure, a 35 pound dog and an 85 pound dog can get along fine. But if the shelter dog has aggression issues (and there are a lot of dogs out there that flat don't like other dogs) it's going to take training if it is even possible to bring them together.

I'm a bit puzzled by the BF's actions though. Either he's not knowledgeable enough about dogs to know that you can't just throw two dogs in a room and hope for the best, or he's deliberately creating a breaking point in the relationship because he's too chickenshit to call it off himself.

Posted by: brian [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 1:54 PM

Brian: Be careful lest you be accused of an anti-man conspiracy.Of threatening to strike down the defender of us down trotted men. You wouldn't want the reputation of someone who wants to castrate us all. See you would even strike for the nuts classic sign of man hating :)

I got the same vibe off the situation.
I did something similar with cats. Two large older fur balls and one young but weened kitten. It was a slow process. First we started switching toys and blankets to get the scents mixed and get every one use to each others smell. The about 5 or so new cat in carrier introductions. Then all in a room with both of us reinforcing not trying to kill each other behavior. After about a month of this we let them play and after there were no major fights for a while we let them roam around the house unsupervised. I would think that with dogs especially shelter dogs it may take more even work.

Posted by: vlad [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 2:08 PM

ethasgard - ...You see an anti-man conspiracy everywhere you look.

That's for sure.

And I think the boyfriend is kind of an idiot. One of those people who goes through life without thinking too hard, hoping everything will turn out okay.

Posted by: Amy Alkon [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 4:52 PM

confucious says: a man can either be happy, or he can be right. he cannot be both.

Posted by: jody at February 6, 2008 7:05 PM

It's a pity we can't tap into the heat generated on this thread to use as an energy source. It must have hit some kind of record in terms of the assumptions made relative to the small amount of information in the opening post. Could we make "jumping to conclusions" a new Olympic event?

Posted by: Norman at February 7, 2008 12:31 AM

Norman: What else can we do since there is no additional information. I's love to send a team of analysts and covert observation specialists to this persons house and observe for a few weeks. I don't know where they live nor have the capital to fund a month long survalence operation.
His behavior sounds strange to any of us who own or have owned pets. More egregious but along the same lines: Would you mix a bitbull with Paris Hilton's dog and expect a good outcome?

Posted by: vlad [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2008 6:29 AM

Could we make "jumping to conclusions" a new Olympic event?

It's not? Boy, will my mom be surprised! o_O

Posted by: Flynne [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2008 6:59 AM

I admit to have a terrible passive aggressive streak at times. So yeah, I considered tasing the new dog. :(

Posted by: jerry at February 7, 2008 7:04 AM

Norman, when you get that "blog flame to electric" converter going, let Amy know so she can write an article involving cats. That'll solve our nation's energy problems!

LW feels her dog's in danger (and dog's pick up on that fear), and LW's BF wants to keep his dog. People are now arguing over breeds, personal experiences, and - strangely enough - feminism and anti-man conspiracies.

There are a lot of variables and unknowns being argued about here, and even if they DID have bearing to LW's situation, it's irrelevant with regards to Amy's advice. Her recommendation was "Spot" on - drop the ultimatum, drop the drama, and try to work it out like rational adults. After that, they can call Cesar Milan or whatever.

Posted by: Jamie [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2008 7:08 AM

I'm not going to beat any dead horses, or dogs, here. I think Norman's correct. I worked for over a decade as an adoption counselor and pet "socializer" in a DC-area animal shelter, and have consulted with other shelters. Based on the facts presented by the LW, Amy's advice is as good as it gets without knowing more details about the dogs and their respective owners. I just want to address bradley13's assertion that most adult dogs in shelters are there because of training and behavioral problems. In my experience, those dogs are definitely in the minority. The vast majority of the animals in shelters end up there because of the "circumstances" of their owners. Owners who become incapacitated or ill and can no longer care for their pets. Owners who lose their houses through foreclosure and can't keep the pets (an increasing problem). Owners who have to move and can't take the pet with them (this happens a lot with military families). Owners with new babies who decide that the pet needs to go. Owners who keep the pet, only to discover that their child is allergic. Owners who really liked the dog when it was a puppy, but aren't so keen on it once it reaches full size. And my favorite, owners who decide to redecorate their homes and want to trade-in their pet for one that better matches the new decor (I'm not joking). The overwhelming majority of these animals are loving, well-behaved, and anxious to be loved in return. Yes, there will always be some dogs who come in with significant food, hand, child or other animal aggressions. And those dogs never make it "on view" to the general public. In these days of litigation, liability and high insurance costs, shelters won't take the risk of adopting out an animal with clear problems. Moreover, they understand that most adopters won't expend the major effort and expense of trying to "fix" these animals. Most shelters also don't have the space or budget to keep those animals for weeks in the hope that they can turn them around. Simply put, those dogs are euthanized. Dogs with milder problems can be trained and improved, but most competent shelters will still place restrictions on prospective adopters (i.e., adopter must have dog experience, adopter can't have children younger than a certain age or size, dog will be an "only dog," etc.).

Posted by: Ms.Gandhi at February 7, 2008 7:26 AM

Flynne, I'm not bothering. This idiot is so afraid of women that anything you or I say will be misconstrued to be male bashing. I'm seeing that men I like and respect on this blog see him for the idiot, in that respect, he is and that's good enough for me.

Bad Kitty has a point. I had a 12 pound cat that beat up on German Shepards and Dobermans for sport despite being declawed. I couldn't let her run not just because of the declawed thing (you shouldn't let declawed run because of the removal of protection) but because she was so vicious. I'm just lucky I was never sued.

And before anyone starts debating about the cruelty of declawing, it had to be done. She'd half take my arm off in mere play (and I'm the one thing in this world she loved the dickens out of) and would literally climb the wall. I rented a room before my first apartment when I left home and had to pay to have it repapered. It wasn't a convenience because she scratched the furniture, it was a necessity.

That said, I do got to say that she could kick ass without them. She damned well knew how to compensate with her teeth and her back claws (they leave them in for kitty to scratch with). And fighting, geeze, she had an effective tactic.

Fly for the head, dig in with the back claws, hang on for dear life and go over the head to the face and bite the hell out of it. Look dumbfounded when your owner freaks out at you doing this to a head that contains jaws half the size of your body (our neighbor's Doberman, who contrarily was such a sweet, gentle pussycat that the name Dillinger stuck on him was more comical than alarming) and shouts "What are you doing, you crazy cat?" and grabs you off dog's head. Go off in corner and lick paw with a smug, satisfied look that implies that you don't understand what the problem is, you were taking care of the dumb critter. When owner turns on the dog show later, purr, in contented satisfaction when the Dobermans are paraded across the screen.

For the record, she did this to a German Shepard I took pity on and used to let in when he didn't stink too bad and his owners didn't take care of him at all and shut him out of the house in wind and rain and snow. She accepted that I was a sap and was fine until the Doberman moved into the apartment below and he saw this other large male dog in what he considered his territory and ran barking to the sliding glass door. Big mistake. She freaked out and flew into that poor dog so fast.

My cat, for the record, was psycho. Either that or she just thought she had to live up to the horror movie images of black cats.

Posted by: Donna at February 7, 2008 7:51 AM

Donna - one of the few funny quotes from Garfield comes to mind:

It's amazing what one can accomplish when one doesn't know what one can't do.

My friend's Yorkie beats my Doberman up and steals her cookies. The Dobie has no clue what's going on.

Posted by: brian [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2008 8:57 AM


I misunderstood you. I totally agree with what you said.

Posted by: Amy at February 7, 2008 9:06 AM

I'm with Amy on this one. The title of the piece is frakin' brilliant lol.

Posted by: Jeff at February 7, 2008 9:57 AM

My friend's Yorkie beats my Doberman up and steals her cookies. The Dobie has no clue what's going on.

Our Dobie used to allow any smaller dog to get away with murder. As best we could tell, she was waiting for them to grow up a bit before she taught them a lesson. Unfortunately for her, they were never going to grow up. We had to give away multiple dogs that were harassing her.

This raises the question of why every stray on the block wound up at our house, but that's another question. . . .

Posted by: jenl1625 [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2008 10:58 AM

I sure hope the LW and her BF are still reading this column, because there are a lot of great suggestions here ( if you can get past the name-calling). My take is that the BF observed the loving relationship the LW had with her dog, wanted that experience for himself, and then just went out and got himself a dog. No hidden motives, just cluelessness. He did get a book on dog behavior, perhaps he's read it by now and found out that things aren't that simple.

As a lifelong animal lover, I am gratified to see so many others on this blog. Amy, I've said it before and I'll say it again: your readers are the best!

Posted by: Pussnboots [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2008 11:30 AM

Just read through the original query again, wherein the LW says the BF's books indicated his dog did "nothing wrong." That hardly seems credible, unless they were written by Michael Vicks! Or, could it be that the "attack" was highly exaggerated? Guess we'll never know the whole story, but at least these two people are reaching out for advice, unlike so many careless and neglectful dog owners.

P.S. This is for Conan the Grammarian: you don't need to correct me on my placement of the period within the quotation marks. In the US that's where it goes, but in Great Britain it goes outside, according to my punctuation guide. But I'm glad somebody's paying attention in this semi-literate world of ours.

Posted by: Pussnboots [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2008 12:03 PM

"One of those people who goes through life without thinking too hard, hoping everything will turn out okay."

"... I don't think. I admire those who do..." - Homer Simpson

Posted by: Radwaste at February 7, 2008 2:45 PM

@Pussnboots: where did you read that about UK quotation marks? I think it depends on what's being quoted. If it's speech, put the punctuation inside; if it's something to be typed on a computer, it's best to quote strictly verbatim.

Now I'm pretty sure we're off topic.

Posted by: Norman at February 7, 2008 2:47 PM

Good advice, as always--though I have to disagree with all the stereotyping of what men and women are like. Telling a guy what to do isn't "emasculating", except to guys who think their masculinity resides in their ability to always think they are the one in charge and the unchallenged boss. I'd also say that it's not a healthy way to conduct a relationship to have the guy tell the woman what to do and have that be OK. To do something just because your guy tells you to do it just reflects insecurity and lack of self worth. I think it's equally bad for one person, whether man or woman, in a couple to tell the other what to do, with no possibility of discussion. "How do WE work this out" is the way to go for both members of a couple.

That said, I do think the future of their relationship rests in their resolution of this problem. Disagreements about pets is a HUGE issue. While the larger dog's behavioral problems aren't the dogs "fault"--you can't assign such blaming terms to dogs, who don't have the ability to understand such things--they're a fact of life and as such must be dealt with. The guy's reframing of the situation in terms of "fault" or lack thereof is a way of not dealing with the situation. This attitude will likely manifest itself in other areas of the relationship in future, especially regarding kids. Likewise, her ultimatum reflects poorly on her problem-solving ability and willingness to work on things. I've known a lot of people whose treatment of pets was highly reflective of their approach to life/work/family. Like one who adopted a stray and then ignored/laughed away all of the many MAJOR behavioral problems the dog had by saying that it was traumatized when young, so everyone ELSE had to accomodate it. The owner? A kleptomaniac, narcissist, pathological liar who saw everyone else as the ones at fault for all her problems. Another never house-trained her dog and sort of laughed away all of her behavioral problems as "cute". Her fiance refused to allow the dog into their house, so dog went to someone else's care. Then they had kids, and mom had the same reaction to her kids' problems and misbehaviors as she had had to the dog's. And hubby had same reaction--but he couldn't legally throw kids out of the house, but he emotionally washed his hands of them. And then there was the person who was a dog trainer (kinda like Aunt Petunia in Harry Potter). The dogs obeyed like clockwork. And he expected the same instant obedience of his wife and children.

Posted by: Quizzical1 at February 7, 2008 3:56 PM

Telling anyone you're involved with what to do is a poor relationship strategy, but telling men what to do is an especially poor one. There are generalizations that can be made about men in general and about women in general, because, for example, men in general tend to have more testosterone than women, and tend to have more visual sexuality. All men generally do. So to say generalizations about men can't be made is actually wrong.

Posted by: Amy Alkon [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2008 3:59 PM

My dog's better than your dog
My dog's better than yours
My dog's better
and besides I got her first
So you can just prove how much you love me by getting rid of your dog.

Posted by: Gog_Magog_Carpet_Reclaimers at February 7, 2008 4:00 PM

"As best we could tell, she was waiting for them to grow up a bit before she taught them a lesson."

That made my morning :-) It quite explains Flatcoat and Newfie behaviour too...they put up with quite a lot of ear biting and treat-stealing in a good-natured way. Now I know why!

Posted by: crella at February 7, 2008 5:01 PM

Have you seen any decent single sites out there? I mean for activities that don’t cost an arm and a leg? I’ve been on several looking for local events. The only one I can find is http://www.singlesinmotion.com Know of any other?

Posted by: Britneyblogger at February 7, 2008 5:20 PM

Hello all,

I find myself smiling as I read all your comments. You have given such good information! I am the LW and I wanted to let you know this issue has been resolved well for all. The letter gives an abbreviated version of what happened, and Amy gave excellent advice. She's dead on.

Actually both of us have experience with dogs. Neither of us had seen anything quite like this before. Despite all our reading and talking with "experts" - we still don't have a full "answer." My female is a Sheba Inu/Chow mix. Alpha, yes. Dog aggressive, no. I've easily integrated two more dogs(Jindos) into "the pack." His male looked like a Swiss Mountain Dog, jaws like a Pit, and fetched with the frenzy of a Lab, so it's unclear. The dog was hand picked by his best friend, who works for animal control and assured us he was not aggressive at the shelter. The dog is wonderful with people and especially women - he was more attached to me than my BF, in fact.

We did all the "neutral ground" intros many times and while he always "dominated" mine when initially together, they would then settle into "a walk with the pack." It even went ok when we tried it the first 2 times at BF's house. Then, about the 3rd time at his place, the attack came "out of the blue" and it was ugly. She was completely under him and he had her by the neck shaking her. There was little she could do. We tried once more - same thing. And while my girl never once tried to dominate him, she's not the type to just submit either. She would basically just try to ignore him.

The "Ultimatum" was more along the line of me saying I felt I was "between a rock and a hard place" if he chose to keep a dog that mine was unsafe with. But Amy was right in how he wound up taking this, and I'll have to work on my delivery - more challenging when I feel something I love's life is at risk. After this discussion I agreed to give him time to work with the dog, and he agreed to find a home if things didn't improve. Three months later, when nothing seemed to be happening, I wrote a letter to Amy. I was worried that perhaps I had misjudged this man and wanted another opinion. He was so defensive of this dog and blaming mine for the whole problem.

Later, in an attempt to again resolve the "issue" I agreed to introduce another of my dogs, a 30lb neutered male, non-dominant and very dog friendly. We went to neutral territory, muzzled the big one "just in case" and glad we did. The attack was such that my BF was knocked over in the mix and my boy pinned to the ground with the big guy basically trying to rip his throat out. Still we tried to walk them, but it was clear the only thing keeping him from repeating the attack was our presence. I've never quite seen that before - the look of pure jealousy and hatred. At this point, my BF agreed to look for a home. Found him a really good one, too, with his mechanic who had just lost 2, including a pup who got parvo. He almost didn't make it there, as they reported their Rottie was afraid of him, but apparently he was big enough to survive the adjustment and all are happy now. My BF and I got an Irish wolfhound pup, who is bonding well to him and ALL the dogs get along famously! Happy ending.

Posted by: om2bliss at February 7, 2008 6:56 PM

etahasgard -

My goodness your a fucking obnoxious little snot. Donna is a lovely person, that I would really enjoy showing around Portland, should she decide to check it out (though it sounds like a ways off if at all). And flynne, flynne's just bloody hot, with her sword, guns and attitude. If I didn't have the very perfect women for me (and mother of my children), I would totally be hot for her. That you're too much of a moronic asshat to get yourself a girly, is no reason to take it out on others.

Beyond that OT rant, nothing to really contribute. I'm a non-pet sort of guy, who happens to live with cats. At least the cats are very little work - excepting the damned litter box, which I still seem to be in charge of, in spite of momma not being knocked up any more. (grumble, grumble)

Posted by: DuWayne at February 7, 2008 6:57 PM

Telling anyone you're involved with what to do is a poor relationship strategy, but telling men what to do is an especially poor one.

I don't know, I find it rather functional. When it comes to stressful household situations, momma's in charge and I do as I'm told. When it comes to safety issues, especially when we're in public, momma does what I say, no questions asked. That said, we absolutely do not do ultimatums. Never.

Posted by: DuWayne [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2008 8:50 PM

Gregg is older and wiser than I am, and much better at procedural things, so he will, for example, call me up and tell me I need to leave at 3:30pm to get across town without a hellish ride. And I'm glad he does, and I do my best to not change my earrings 300 times so I can follow his advice.

This is different than the situation in this column -- that's giving somebody orders, and doing so because it serves your needs.

Posted by: Amy Alkon [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2008 8:57 PM

Norman, I don't remember where I read about the position of the period in a quote, but it must have been in either Strunk's Elements of Style or Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. So I just now googled "quotation marks period" and the same answer popped right up.

It seems that back in the days of typesetting printed matter by hand, when the period or comma was put after the quotes it often got knocked out of position, so American presses started putting it inside even when it wasn't logical in the sense of the text. The Brits, however, kept doing it the old way and still do, and now it's irrelevant anyway since type isn't set that way any more.

The reason I even mentioned it was a member of Amy's Army with the moniker of Conan the Grammarian (cute!) chastised another poster in the past for using the period inside the quotation marks just as I did in this thread, so I thought I'd beat him to the punch.

Yes, my comment was way off topic, but I've noticed that others seem to get away with it, and often the extraneous issues are very interesting and entertaining (not that mine was).

I'm very glad the dog issue got resolved to everyone's satisfaction, including the dog's. Now let's just hope that Cujo's new owner doesn't provide him with a new victim. By the way, does anyone know if neutering him might help him to mellow out? It often works that way on cats.

Posted by: Pussnboots [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2008 9:59 PM

"My BF and I got an Irish wolfhound pup, who is bonding well to him and ALL the dogs get along famously!" You like the BIG dog small dog huh.
Glad to hear everything went well, sorry about the assumption something sinister was afoot. The big guy had serious abandonment issues which I have seen in humans often enough with pretty much the same results, haven't seen it in dogs though. I guessing that he gets along at the new place cause the Rottie won't take his crap.

Posted by: vlad [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 8, 2008 5:48 AM

Thanks, DuWayne, that's motivation to at least visit (though the money ain't happening in the near future). I'm hoping the money will work out so I can stay near daughter and grandbaby but we'll see. And much as I love them, I've been getting a yen lately to get away for a few days. I get way too much grandbaby time and need to step back. Now that my daughter's getting her act together, I'm hoping I finally can. My initial looks at rent isn't much cheaper, a little lower but not much, though better apartments/houses for the same price. Portland looks nice and the transit system a vast improvement over Albany's. The crime stats were intimidating though. I've a decided limp already due to arthritis, plantar fascia and heel spurs. I won't be looking too tough in my retirement years.

Looks like Dobermans are gentle from the stories here, not just the Dillinger fellow my demon cat messed with. Good guard dogs though. Dillinger was gentle as a lamb almost always. Only time he wasn't would be if you passed in front of the window when his owners weren't home. You'd think he was going to come through that window for you. And that was me who he knew and was pals with -- despite my psycho cat. (Lucky for her, he was so shocked when she did that that he just stood there stock still. I grabbed her off his head before she drew blood.)

I'm glad it worked out, om2bliss, and that I was wrong about your fellow. Sounds like the big dog's found a place he fits in better.

Posted by: Donna at February 8, 2008 5:56 AM

I'm glad it worked out, om2bliss, and that I was wrong about your fellow. Sounds like the big dog's found a place he fits in better.

Me, too, om2bliss, it's always nicer when things work out; I'm glad they did for you all. A wolfhound pup? I've always wanted one!

DuWayne, thank you so much for the compliments, feelings and situations mutual! (You forgot about my longbow, though!) o_O

Posted by: Flynne [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 8, 2008 6:13 AM

Yes, om2bliss, we're all so happy you were able to work things out. You and your BF both turned out to be responsible pet owners, not the clueless neurotics we all accused you of being. I'll bet you were astonished to see what a firestorm you ignited with your simple inquiry!

And further, thank you so much for updating us on the situation -- I wish all LWs would do that. In fact, I'd say it should be mandatory, except that would inhibit the freewheeling style of this blog.

Anyway, best of luck to you and the BF and all the critters -- may you all live happily ever after.

Posted by: Pussnboots [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 8, 2008 7:16 AM

Thanks for your good wishes. They're much appreciated.

"You like the BIG dog small dog huh."

My BF is dead set on BIG dogs. Absolutely ok with me - my only concern has ever been that no one get hurt. Irish Wolfhounds are known for their gentleness and that's what we're seeing. I love the little guy (He's already bigger than mine:) tons.

Posted by: om2bliss [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 8, 2008 7:45 AM

What they need to do is take on the dominate roles in the pack, and realize the little dog is probably provoking the bigger one into attacking which can be caused by staring, standing over top of the other, things like that. When that behavior is noticed it needs to be handled immediately with a sharp word, don't sit around to wait and see what happens. And also if her dog isn't fixed that needs to be taken care of also. Obediance classes, lots of excersize, separate food dishes(other sides of the room)and NO table scraps.

and i would never choose a man over my dog either. I just got lucky my dog is madly in love with my boyfriend. more often than not you will see him with a 65lb Pit Bull on his lap nibbling his nose its the cutest!

Posted by: pitbull mommy at February 8, 2008 1:39 PM

om2bliss, I'm glad things worked out. Good luck with the new pup.

Posted by: crella at February 8, 2008 11:08 PM

It's not the breed of the dogs. It's not that the big dog has "issues." And it's not that the small dog has been traumatized.

Dogs don't concern themselves with psychological issues. They don't discuss their issues with each other. That's what humans do. Dogs respond to behavior and demeanor.

So the problem is with the human. It was the human who was traumatized by the "attack." Now she's afraid of the big dog and conveys that fear to her dog through her own demeanor. Her dog can't get over it because she won't allow the dog to get over it.

But they're not going to find out if they're compatible until they bring them together again. I'm not saying that they should just throw the 2 dogs together and see what happens. That would stupid given her fear. It should probably be done first with dog trainers doing the handling.

So I kind of agree with the person who said that maybe this encounter reveals more about the woman than the man or the dogs. If you're always afraid of getting hurt, then you're never going to allow anyone to get close enough to love you. And neither the guy nor the dog can prove themselves worthy because she's not going to give them the chance to.

Posted by: cjsamms [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 9, 2008 7:09 PM

And neither the guy nor the dog can prove themselves worthy because she's not going to give them the chance to.

Actually, I believe they're either married or getting married, and the guy got rid of the dog after another violent episode from it in which it injured him -- he gave it to a friend who gave it a good home...although the dog attacked their existing dog, too...but it was a big, scary dog, so it held its own against the new one.

Posted by: Amy Alkon [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 10, 2008 12:28 AM

Just want to weigh in on the shelter dog discussion: No one with kids or a dog should ever adopt an adult dog, whether it's from a shelter or another private home. While every rule has an exception, and I am only speaking from personal experience, and am no dog "expert", it is a bad decision for everyone involved. Adults dogs simply do not bond as well as puppies do, and when it comes to kids and the family dog, it's akin to inviting a stranger to come live with you.

I adopted an adult male dog who was going to be sent to a shelter because his owner had to move and couldn't take him. My dog, Sam, was about 10 years old at the time. My daughter was about 6 years old. Riley was a big Lab mix and very docile. His previous owner worked at a liquor store and brought him in the store everyday, so he was very used to being around strangers. He seemed like the perfect fit.

Long story short: Sam avoided him like the plague and Riley pretty much stayed to himself. It seemed to be going OK until Riley bit my daughter on the hand when she reached out to pat him on the head. He had a bone that was on the ground about 3 feet behind him, and he may have thought she was going for the bone. Who knows? It wasn't a bad bite, more like a scratch that didn't break the skin. He was not a mean dog, he was just being a dog. I dropped him off at the shelter that afternoon. I wouldn't take the chance he'd bite her again. I shouldn't have adopted him. It wasn't fair to him, and most shelter's today wouldn't have let me take him. And rightly so.

As far as having two dogs? I'll never have two dogs again unless I get them both as puppies.

I bought a Pomeranian puppy when Sam was 11 and she, Fluffy, made poor Sam's life miserable. He was too old by then to put up with a high strung puppy. Sam died at home on August 16, 1999. He was 12. I got another Pom, Sophie, and Fluffy terrorized her, too. They had such different temperments. Sophie died at the age of 7 a few months ago.

So it's just Fluffy now. And I won't get another dog until she's gone. Then I might get two puppies. But no more Pomeranians!

I might get another Beagle like Sam. He was that one great dog. I still miss him.

Posted by: Jaynie59 [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 10, 2008 9:16 PM

Wise, Jaynie. Sorry to hear about Sophie.

Posted by: Amy Alkon [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 10, 2008 9:24 PM

Ha ha ha! I must say, yhis has been really entertaining. I think alot of people are on the money, passive-aggressiveness, clueless about dog behavior, making a loving statement about wanting to make a life with her, you could go on and on and on. And you did...about eachother! You guys are so caught up in defending yourselves thinking everything is meant as an insult that you are flooding this poor letter writer with all kinds of bullshit. How about some good advice, like from amy and the actual educated dog trainer?

Posted by: Amanda at February 12, 2008 11:43 AM

I read recently that power struggles aren't about the topic, but about a couples ability to solve disagreements.

That said, in the case of the doggies, I agree with those before me who understand the significance of adopting an adult dog and the responsibility and time associated with training it. The best solution in the scenario presented would be the couple's agreement that they will be patient, work with a trainer and in time, possibly reintroduce the dogs, carefully. If the new dog just turns out to be bad with other dogs, the couple will either need to keep the dogs separated (always) or find a new home that doesn't have other dogs.

There is a reasonable solution, but it seems to have turned into more - as is common in intimate relationships!

Here's to the pooches.

Posted by: Helene at February 12, 2008 12:16 PM

But is it really a case of one dog trying to eat another, or a dominance play that once settled goes largely away? I have a malamute. He will play like the dickens, but if another dog, or cat, goes to his food, we have a problem. He has also been playing with other dogs and then decides to dominate one. After the pecking order is established, it is play time again. Also, once one dog surrenders, the dominant dog should stop fighting. If you intterupt two dogs before they establish pecking order, they will always try to finish it.

A dog IS a man's best friend.

Posted by: Smarty at February 20, 2008 6:00 AM

His dog attacks your dog? Since you didn't say your dog was hospitalized then I must assume his dog engaged in rough and tumble play with your dog and possible was vocal during the play. (often mistaken for growling)

And you don't like it!

I find this a lot with dog owners at the local dog park. They "mother" there doggies and bail them out of trouble at the first sign. Their dog never socializes properly and becomes a magnet for trouble because it knows mommy/daddy will bail him/her out if he/she starts something.

My suggestion is to go to a dog park and let your dogs play amongst other dogs. And take your dogs on walks together (leashed).

There's no reason your two dogs can't learn to get along and no reason you can't learn to lighten up.

Unless of course you are subconsciously looking for an excuse to dump your bf?

Stranger things have happened.

Posted by: Jean Valjean at February 28, 2008 1:02 AM

When we got our most recent dog at the animal control shelter, the othre dogs in the facility were marked as to personality behaviors: not good with cats, other dogs, children... since the LW has a dog, then BF was an idiot for getting a dog that doesn't do well around other dogs. Our dog was a real sweet heart, had no food guarding issues, and we can touch him all over his body without getting a growl. Still we ended up taking him to dog training - even though we have had many dogs in the past, including ones we raised from puppyhood.

Getting an older dog from elsewhere is always difficult regardless of size, as they will have been taught or developed behaviors that if you had been raising the dog yourself, the do would have never developed. We did take our dog to training classes, because he was a larger breed, and because we do love our animals and want to at least try to work with him to improve his behavior before we gave him up. It is three years later, and while his bahavior has improved in some areas, we are still working on others.

LW did ask her BF to take the dog to training, to help control the agressiveness. BF has clearly refused to do so. Note: the dog may not be agressive to people, but if the dog is showing any agressiveness (i.e. has bitten her dog), the shelter should be contacted as it obviously didn't test the dog before it was allowed to be adopted. LW could also suggest that she also take her dog to the training course, with the BF taking his dog, so that the training instructor can work with -both- dogs, and help get through the agressive/pecking order phase. Note: this is training with a certified training instructor, and not just the BF working with his dog. Working with the instructor will help learn how to teach the dogs to listen to -both- of you, and help determine if the new dog and LW's dog are not going to get along.

I also agree with other commenters, if the BF is not going to take the dog to a training class, LW should NOT allow the two dogs to come into contact again. Also if the dogs were introduced at the BF's home, then the BF's dog, being new, was reacting in a territorial manner, afraid the LW dog was coming to take it's territory. Any other meetings should first be held in a neutral area, a dog park with both on leashes, a friend or other family memeber's home, at the training class. Once it is clear that the two dogs are getting along well, then slowly (and on leash for both dogs) allow the dogs to meet on "home" ground.

If LW or the BF don't want to take the time and effort to work with the dogs (and the LW has to put in as much work as BF by the way) then LW should admit that the dogs will have to stay at their respective homes, and any plans to consolidate into one household should be put on hold indefinitely.

Posted by: Magesteff at February 29, 2008 8:50 PM


Posted by: Magesteff at February 29, 2008 8:58 PM

I just read the LW response and the solution to their issues. There was a lot more going on than what the inital letter had led me to believe. I am very glad that everything worked out for the best for both the couple and the dogs. Glad to hear about the new addition to the pack!

Posted by: Magesteff at February 29, 2008 9:11 PM

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